Our 2015 review…Back in APRIL Associate Editor Kim unlocked hidden Clerkenwell…
Here's award-winning Blue Badge guide and Daily Constitutional Associate Editor Kim…
About 18 months ago I was hired to do a walk for a group of architects in the Islington/Smithfield area. These guys were the good ones - not into glass monoliths but took old buildings and created useable space without destroying them - so I wanted to give them some good and bad examples in the area. Googling the subject came up with Smokehouse Yard and the Smokehouse.
Never heard of it? Well, neither had I so the search began.
I scoured the area and walked up and down St John's Street with no success whatsoever and eventually decided that the website had been old and the buildings had sadly disappeared. But some time later I got the opportunity to give it a second go and discovered my mistake. It had been a weekend and the gates to the Smokehouse are closed and from the street there is absolutely no hint of the MOST FANTASTIC PIECE OF INDUSTRIAL ARCHITECTURE in London.
Here it is in all its glory.
Close to Smithfield so the meat could be brought here quickly and easily. Here they were hung from hooks in the ceiling and the building was now sealed. In the photographs you can see the round windows - originally open with no glass…
A tug on the metal chain would bring the huge metal circles moving up on the tracks to cover the openings. Thick metal shutters were placed over the windows coming out to the balcony and then the smoking could begin. The blackened chimneys were the only way out for the smoke and inside was produced the ham and bacon for the capital's tables.
On one occasion I've managed to get inside the building and that's a bit of a disappointment. The inside has been transformed into small units for designers and media companies and there's no hint of its original use but I have a theory and I need to come back here on a dull, damp day. Because in the right conditions, I'm pretty convinced that the building will give up its secrets and will smell of bacon sandwiches and the smoking process that produced them.
Now you could start your own hunt for this one but you'll not get there at weekends. If you want to see it easily and in context to the whole area then join me on the Secret Village walk, Mondays 2.30pm from St Paul's. You'll see it and, who knows, if the conditions are just right, maybe we'll get to smell it too!
P.S. Here's my reward for the trip to take the photographs. Leon, Cowcross Street, mug of tea and Ginger Lemon Crunch. Heaven!
A London Walk costs £10 – £8 concession. To join a London Walk, simply meet your guide at the designated tube station at the appointed time. Details of all London Walks can be found at www.walks.com.